Inspired by the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution of 1787, the people of Poland formed and adopted the first democratic constitution in Europe on May 3, 1791. This became the second democratic constitution in the world.
Sixty Years Ago–Poznaǹ June 1956 and its Significance in Polish and World History
excerpted from a longer study by David Gwidon Chełmiǹski, Ph. D.
Not even a year after the formation of the “Warsaw Pact” mutual defense alliance in 1955, Poland suddenly made it into the world news headlines with the first significant uprising of the workers voicing dissatisfaction with the centrally-controlled Marxist economic system which had been imposed upon them in the decade since the Second World War, and remarkably, Poznaǹ, was at the center of what was happening.
After the Minister of Machine Industry withdrew several promises given at the Polish capital of Warszawa to a delegation of workers from a metal Industries factory at Poznaǹ, a strike started spontaneously at the multi-factory complex at six in the morning of Thursday June 28th, 1956. Around eighty percent of the workers were protesting the increased workload and loss of bonus pay and demanding compensation after the government had suddenly raised their required work quota. Students and workers from other plants joined their procession. Between 9 and 11 a.m., 100,000 people had gathered at the Adam Mickiewicz Square in front of the old German Kaiser’s Imperial Palace, demanding lower food prices, wage increases, revocation of some recent changes in the law which had eroded work conditions and a visit by Poland’s Prime Minister Józef Cyrankiewicz.
The crowds stormed a prison at ulica Młyǹska, releasing hundreds of prisoners, distributed firearms from the prison’s arms depot among themselves, and attacked the Communist Party’s local headquarters and the office of the Ministry of Public Security. By six p.m., the protesters had seized many government buildings, including a radio-jamming station and police stations in outlying districts, and the military school at the Poznaǹ University of Technology and the prison camp in Mrowino, destroying police records at the district courthouse and procurature as well as at a police station.
The city was pacified by Saturday June 30th, 1956. An estimated fifty-seven to over one hundred civilians had been killed, and about six hundred people were wounded. By nine p.m. a wave of detentions had begun—the detainees were taken to the airport and subjected to brutal interrogations. Seven hundred forty-six individuals were detained for over five weeks, until Wednesday August 8th, 1956, while prosecutions carried on for many years.
Clearly encouraged by the Polish example of voicing their dissatisfaction with the Communist regime and getting some significant changes, Hungary began its own uprising on Tuesday October 23rd, 1956.
Constitution Day is an official public holiday in Poland.
On May 3, 1791, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s constitution was adopted. It was the first constitution in modern Europe and second in the world, following the American one. It was a significant achievement of the Polish Enlightenment thinkers.
May 3 was established as a holiday only days after the constitution was passed by the Grand Sejm (Polish Parliament). It was later suspended for many years due to the country’s partitioning, but was reinstituted after Poland regained its freedom in 1918. After World War II, in 1946, the communist authorities banned the holiday’s public celebration. The holiday was officially cancelled in 1951. Since 1990 the May 3 holiday has again been celebrated as an official statutory holiday in Poland.
Constitution Day is part of a holiday season known as Majówka, which also includes the May 1/Labor Day holiday. It is celebrated with military parades, spring concerts and family picnics. Many people also gather at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Grób Nieznanego Żołnierza) at the Piłsudski Square in Warsaw. The monument is dedicated to unknown soldiers who gave their lives for Poland.
Presented with support from the Copernicus Program in Polish Studies.
This series of restored classic Polish films has been organized and curated by Martin Scorsese, one of the most recognized and respected filmmakers in the world, and is the largest presentation of restored Polish cinema to date.
9/8: The Last Day of Summer & Innocent Sorcerers
9/15: Night Train
9/22: A Short Film About Killing
10/6: The Illumination
10/13: The Saragossa Manuscript
10/27: Mother Joan of the Angels
11/3: Ashes and Diamonds
11/10: The Hourglass Sanatorium
11/24: Black Cross
12/1: The Promised Land
12/8: Man of Iron
Below are just three of the films being shown.
To see more, go to http://www.michtheater.org/series/polish-cinema/
Monday, September 15 at 7 PM. Part of Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema. Presented with support from the Copernicus Program in Polish Studies.
In Night Train (Pociag), directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz, a subtle game of emotions between two travelers—changing from mutual aversion to closeness without hope of a future—plays out amidst the human microcosm of a night train. Jerzy (Leon Niemczyk) and Marta (Lucyna Winnicka), accidentally end up holding tickets for the same sleeping chamber on an overnight train to the Baltic Sea coast. Also on board is Marta’s spurned lover, who will not leave her alone. When the police enter the train in search of a murderer on the lam, rumors fly and everything seems to point toward one of the main characters as the culprit.
1959. 98 minutes. Polish with subtitles.
A Short Film About Killing
Monday, September 22 at 7 PM. Part of Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema. Presented with support from the Copernicus Program in Polish Studies.
A Short Film About Killing (Krótki film o zabijaniu) opens with a scene of a dead rat and a lifeless cat hanging by the neck. As the plot unfolds, Yatzek (Miroslaw Baka) is a 20-year-old drifter who murders a testy taxi driver (Jan Tesarz) in a gut-wrenching scene of excessive violence. Tension continues to build as a newly licensed young attorney (Krzysztof Globisz is chosen to represent Yatzek in court. Much anticipated and well-received at Cannes, the film won the European Film Academy Award for “Best European Film” in 1988. ~ Rovi
1987. 86 minutes. Polish with subtitles.
Friday, September 29 at 7 PM. Part of Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema.
Director: Tadeusz Konwicki.
One of Poland’s most important novelists, Tadeusz Konwicki was also a director (The Last Day of Summer) and screenwriter (Pharoah, Mother Joan of the Angels). Jump (Salto) is a tantalizing existential mystery that hops nimbly between allegory and black comedy. It begins with the hero (Cybulski) jumping off a moving train and making his way to a small town where he lived during the war. Or did he? Riffing on his Ashes and Diamonds persona, Cybulski delivers a dazzlingly protean performance. Is his character an imposter, a fugitive, a prophet, an avenger, a ghost, or just an ordinary schmuck? The title refers both to the hero’s initial leap and to a justly celebrated dance performed to composer Wojciech Kilar’s ultra-cool jazz theme. – Marty Rubin
1965. 105 minutes. Polish with English subtitles.
Pictured: City Councilman Tom Winiewski, PACT President Stan Machosky,
Toledo Mayor Michael Collins and PACT Vice-President, Matt Zaleski.
From the Toledo Blade, Monday, August 11, 2014:
The second annual Polka Party Picnic offered far more than the expected polka dancing and kielbasa meal at St. Hyacinth Catholic Church on Sunday afternoon.
At the event, the Polish -American Community of Toledo, or PACT, announced plans to launch a $1million capital campaign to raise funds to establish a Toledo area Polish-American Community Center.
“A major issue is that the churches formed by some of the first Poles who came to Toledo are slowly closing”, said Toledo Polish Genealogical Society and PACT member Marge Stefanski. “Many believe some of the Polish heritage in the community is being lost in the process.”
“We need to keep the heritage going by passing it on to the young crowd,” Stan Machosky, PACT Board President said. “We need a place to assemble to transfer this to the young.”
To read the entire article, go to http://www.toledoblade.com/Culture/2014/08/11/Poles-set-sights-on-1M-center.html
Thanks you to St. Hyacinth and St. Charles for giving PACT this venue to launch this campaign. It is with the interest of the entire Polish population of Toledo and North West Ohio that this endeavor is being started.
American Originals: Northwest Ohio’s Polish Community at Home, Work, Worship, and Play is the latest book to be published by the University of Toledo Press.
The 258 page work presents a glimpse into the history of one of Toledo’s most important ethnic groups.
“The book is a mix of the broader themes that have shaped our community with the actual lives that Polish-Americans recall–sometimes remembered with pain, more often with joy, and always with the respect for the accomplishments of the families, friends and neighbors,” said Timothy Borden, editor of the book. “These are the histories of true American originals, who found a proper home for their ideals in the Polish-American community of northwest Ohio.”
The book includes several chapters by Borden, who holds a Ph.D. in history from Indiana University Bloomington. Others with chapters include David Chelminski, Dorothy Stohl, Jane Armstrong-Hudiburg, Sarah Miller, William Samiec, and Margaret Zotkiewicz-Dramczyk.
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur also contributed a chapter on the history of her Polish family, including the story of her father, Steve, who was known in the community as “Kappy.” Kappy began his career as a trucker and produce dealer in the 1930’s, and in the 1950’s, he and his wife Anastasia, opened the Supreme Market in Rossford. The market sold Polish specialty items. Kaptur also recounts several trips she made to Poland to visit the homeland of her ancestors, and how moved she was by the Polish people and the tales of their struggles throughout history.
The book also looks at the artistic expressions of Toledo’s Polish community in its polka music. The chapter by Zotkiewicz-Dramczyk looks at some of the beloved polka bands that played in many venues around Toledo. It includes interviews with some of the bands’ leaders and discusses the evolution of Toledo’s polka music. A listing of polka recordings by Toledo bands is also included. In addition, Zotkiewicz-Dramczyk discusses the influential Toledo Polish music radio show hosted for years by Chet Zablocki, assisted by his wife Helen, and then after Helen’s death, by his second wife, Sharon.
Other chapters look at Polish wedding traditions, the role of local Catholic sisters in educating the new immigrants to Toledo, and the experience of those growing up in Toledo’s two Polish neighborhoods–Kuhschwantz and Lagrinka. “American Originals is an important contribution to Toledo’s history and is also a fascinating read for anyone who is a part of the Polish community, or just an admirer,” Barbara Floyd, director of the UT Press said.
The book is for sale from the UT Press website: www.utoledopress.com, at Barnes & Noble at The University of Toledo, or by contacting Barbara Floyd, at 419-530-2170.
For more information about the book, or to schedule interviews with the authors, contact Floyd.
The origin of this miraculous image in Czestochowa, Poland is unknown for absolute certainty, but according to tradition the painting was a portrait of Our Lady done by St. John sometime after the Crucifixion of Our Lord and remained in the Holy Land until discovered by St. Helena of the Cross in the fourth century. The painting was taken to Constaninople, where St. Helena’s son, the Emperor Constantine, erected a church for its enthronement. This image was revered by the people of the city.
During the siege by the Saracens, the invaders became frightened when the people carried the picture in a procession around the city; the infidels fled. Later, the image was threatened with burning by an evil emperor, who had a wife, Irene, who saved it and hid it from harm. The image was in that city for 500 years, until it became part of some dowries, eventually being taken to Russia to a region that later became Poland.
After the portrait became the possession of the Polish prince, St. Ladislaus in the 15th century, it was installed in his castle. Tartar invaders besieged the castle and an enemy arrow pierced Our Lady’s image, inflicting a scar. Interestingly, repeated attempts to fix the image, artistically have all failed.
Tradition says that St. Ladislaus determined to save the image from repeated invasions, so he went to his birthplace, Opala, stopping for rest in Czestochowa; the image was brought nearby to Jasna Gora [“bright hill”] and placed in a small wooden church named for the Assumption. The following morning, after the picture was carefully placed in the wagon, the horses refused to move. St. Ladislaus understood this to be a sign from Heaven that the image should stay in Czestochowa; thus he replaced the painting in the Church of the Assumption, August 26, 1382, a day still observed as the Feast Day of the painting. The Saint wished to have the holiest of men guard the painting, so he assigned the church and the monastery to the Pauline Fathers, who have devoutly protected the image for the last six hundred years.
Having survived two attacks upon it, Our Lady’s image was next imperiled by the Hussites, followers of the heretic priest, John Hus from Prague. The Hussites did not accept papal authority as coming from Christ and taught that mortal sin deprived an office holder of his position, among other heresies. Hus had been influenced by John Wyclif and became infected with his errors. Hus was tried and condemned at Constance in 1415. The Hussites successfully stormed the Pauline monastery in 1430, plundering the sanctuary. Among the items stolen was the image. After putting it in their wagon, the Hussites went a little ways but then the horses refused to go any further. Recalling the former incident that was so similar, the heretics threw the portrait down to the ground, which shattered the image into three pieces. One of the plunderers drew his sword and slashed the image twice, causing two deep gashes; while attempting a third gash, he was overcome with a writhing agony and died.
The two slashes on the cheek of the Blessed Virgin, together with the one on the throat, not readily visible in our copy, have always reappeared after artistic attempts to fix them. The portrait again faced danger in 1655 by a Swedish horde of 12,000, which confronted the 300 men guarding the image. The band of 300 routed the 12,000 and the following year, the Holy Virgin was acclaimed Queen of Poland.
In September 14, 1920, when the Russian army assembled at the River Vistula, in preparation for invading Warsaw, the Polish people prayed to Our Lady. the next day was the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. The Russians quickly withdrew after the image appeared in the clouds over Warsaw. In Polish history, this is known as the Miracle of Vistula.
During the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II, Hitler order all religious pilgrimages stopped. In a demonstration of love for Our Lady and their confidence in her protection, a half million Poles went to the sanctuary in defiance of Hitler’s orders. Following the liberation of Poland in 1945, a million and a half people expressed their gratitude to the Madonna by praying before this miraculous image.
Twenty-eight years after the Russian’s first attempt at capturing the city, they successfully took control of Warsaw and the entire nation in 1948. That year more than 800,000 brave Poles made a pilgrimage to the sanctuary at Czestochowa on the Feast of the Assumption, one of the three Feast days of the image; the pilgrims had to pass by the Communist soldiers who patrolled the streets.
Today, the Polish people continue to honor their beloved portrait of the Madonna and Child, especially on August 26, the day reserved by St. Ladislaus. Because of the dark pigment on Our Lady’s face and hands, the image is affectionately called the “Black Madonna,” most beautifully prefigured in the Bible, in the Canticle of Canticles, “I am black but beautiful.” The pigmentation is ascribed primarily to age and the need to keep it hidden for long periods of time in places where the only light was from candles, which colored the painting with smoke.
The miracles attributed to Our Lady of Czestochowa are many and most spectacular. The original accounts of them, some of them cures, are archived by the Pauline Fathers at Jasna Gora.
Papal recognition of the miraculous image was made by Pope Clement XI in 1717. The crown given to the image was used in the first official coronation of the painting, which was stolen in 1909.
This year PACT is organizing a trip to Hamtramck, Michigan; once a stronghold of Polish immigrants and Polish culture. Hamtramck was originally settled by German farmers, but Polish immigrants flooded into the area when the Dodge Brothers plant opened in 1914. Poles still make up a large proportion of the population. It is sometimes confused with Poletown, a traditional Polish neighborhood, which lies mostly in the city of Detroit and includes a small part of Hamtramck. As of the 2000 census, over 22% of Hamtramck’s population is of Polish origin; in 1970, it was 90% Polish. ST. Florian Church was the center of Polish culture and Polish events. It is named in honor of Florjan (Florian) patron of Poland and Upper Austria; his feast day is May 4. Today, you can still find authentic Polish grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants and an art center. Our tour will include a tour of St. Florian Church, the Polish Art Center, lunch at a Polish restaurant and time to shop at the Polish bakery and grocery store. If you have questions about this trip, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline to sign up for this trip is May 1st, so reserve your seat on the bus early. The price of the trip is $40 per person for non members and $35 per person for PACT members. This price will include the bus trip to and from Hamtramck, a tour guide at St. Florian Polish Church, and lunch at the Polonia Restaurant. Lunch consists of soup, salad, pierogi, kielbasa and potato pancakes. We will also visit the Polish Art Center for a talk on Polish pottery and a shopping at the New Palace bakery and Srodek’s grocery store. There will free time to shop and browse.
Please send your check to PACT, P.O. Box 1033, Sylvania, Ohio, 43560 by the first of May. Also include the name and phone number of all that are going.
Don’t let the bus leave without you. Join us for a day in Hamtramck!
Gaining back independence by Poland is celebrated on November 11th and is one of the most important national celebrations in Poland. As Poland was partitioned at the end of 18th century, and divided between 3 countries: Austria, Prussia and Russia, it vanished from the map of Europe. The greatness of the nation, that used to be one of the biggest and powerful countries on the continent, started to weaken before the three acts of partition took place. The first (1772) and second (1793)partition decreased the territory of Poland, while the third one (1795) made the Poles become citizens of foreign countries. Continue reading…